In DepthBehind the Numbers

When the payoff for academics drops, commercialization suffers

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Science  22 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6284, pp. 396
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6284.396

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Summary

For decades, innovation experts have urged other nations to adopt the U.S. approach to nurturing innovation on campus. One essential element of that model is the practice of giving universities a majority share, typically two-thirds, of the value of a patent or spinoff company that results from the discovery. But a new study suggests that such a formula may actually make it less likely that researchers try to commercialize their work. A 2002 law in Norway that ended the country's long-running practice of giving academics 100% ownership of their intellectual property and adopted a U.S.-style system caused the per capita number of patents from academics to drop by 53% in the next 5 years. Likewise, the per capita formation of university-backed startup companies plunged by 67%. The researchers also found evidence that the quality of the commercial activity had declined.